Facing the Emergence of the Modern Middle East: Benedict XV's Diplomacy in Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) 1914-1922
Pope Benedict XV's pontificate (1914-1922), misunderstood by his contemporaries and neglected by recent scholarship, coincides with the reshaping of the Middle East, from the beginning of World War One to the assignment of Mandates to France and Britain over Syria and Palestine. This study examines Benedict XV's diplomacy in Greater Syria. Its unique aspect resides in the combination of two approaches. Benedict's main priority was to ensure the survival of Christians in the Middle East, providing them with a dynamic ecclesiological structure. The pontiff completed and institutionalized the traditional ecclesiological approach in favor of unionism, with the goal to strengthen the ecclesial structures of the Eastern churches and equip them with solid legal foundations. This ecclesiological approach was integrated in Benedict XV's global geo-political vision that shifted away from its past Eurocentric vision and was combined with an anticipation of the decolonization era. Benedict completed these guiding principles with a policy of emancipation of the missionary world from the bondage of colonial powers, preparing the Church for an active role in the world. These principles were implemented in Syria-Lebanon, as Benedict XV navigated between the pressure of French imperialism and Prince Feisal's Arab nationalism, as well as in Palestine, dominated by the tension between Britain and France, the implementation of a Jewish national home, and the proselytizing of Protestant missions. The core of the dissertation, which stands at the confluence of Church history, international politics, and law, rests upon a historically critical evaluation of documents found in the Vatican Secret Archives, the Archives of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome, Italy. Benedict XV reigned during a decade that shook the world. He witnessed, in Greater Syria, events that had tremendous historical, religious, and political implications for the future of the region and our understanding of the unending turmoil affecting the Middle East a century later. Pope Benedict emerges as a wise pontiff, a skilled geo-politician, well ahead of his time. This dissertation is the first regional study of Pope Benedict's diplomatic endeavors.
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